William Taft was the twenty-seventh President (1909-1013) and tenth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1921-1930). Taft was the only Chief Executive in the nation's history to serve first as President and then as Chief Justice. Thus, he became the only person in history to ever head two branches of the federal government -- the executive and the judicial.
Taft, the nation's largest President; stood over six feet tall and weighed over three hundred pounds. A special bathtub was made in the White House to accommodate him. He enjoyed athletics, especially baseball. He is credited with starting the tradition of the President's throwing out the first pitch in the first game of the World Series, as well as with initiating the seventh inning stretch. He was a good dancer and an accomplished equestrian, who rode daily.
Born on September 15, 1857, in Cincinnati, Ohio; William Taft was the son of Alphonso Taft, Secretary of State for President Grant. He was educated at Yale University and graduated second in his class. His also graduated from the Cincinnati Law School and then married Helen Herron in 1886. He then spent most of the next twenty years the courtroom as an attorney and later as a judge. In addition, he served as assistant district attorney, as a collector for the Internal Revenue Service in Cincinnati, and as solicitor general of the United States, and as a judge of the Circuit Court of Appeals.
He chaired a commission to establish civil government in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, and he served as its first Civilian Governor. As Governor of the Philippines, William Taft set up the local government and the judicial system. He also helped settle land disputes between the churches and government officials.
During his first administration, Theodore Roosevelt appointed Taft Secretary of War. While serving in this capacity, Taft directed construction of the Panama Canal, established the Canal Zone government, and helped upgrade the United States Army. He also participated in the negotiations that would end the Russo-Japanese War, and he helped Japan settle an immigration conflict. On two occasions, Theodore Roosevelt offered him a seat on the Supreme Court, but Taft turned him down both times. When Roosevelt chose not to run in the 1908 Presidential election, he persuaded the Republican Party to nominate Taft, who easily won the election.
Because of his experience in law and government, William Taft was as highly qualified as any President who had held the office up to that time; but his administration was less than happy. Taft signed a tariff bill that angered the progressive wing of the Republican Party, especially Roosevelt. The Taft administration also passed parcel post reforms and workman's compensation laws. It was during the Taft presidency that Congress passed the 16th Amendment to levy an income tax on the American people, and the 17th amendment, which allowed election of United States senators by popular vote.
William Taft also established the Federal Children's Bureau, had the Mann-Elkins Act passed, and signed the Publicity Act. The Mann-Elkins Act placed the telephone, telegraph, radio, cable services, and other communications companies under the control of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). The Publicity Act required political parties to account for the money spent on federal campaigns. Taft wanted to expand the influence of the United States overseas, so he started a plan called Dollar Diplomacy, which encouraged United States banks and businesses to make investments abroad. He was not above using the Marines to accomplish his objectives.
Roosevelt broke with Taft in 1910, and ran as a third party candidate on the Progressive or Bull Moose ticket in the election of 1912. This split the Republican Party and their votes, giving an easy victory to Democrat, Woodrow Wilson. Unlike Teddy Roosevelt before him, Taft was very unhappy as Chief Executive, and when he left the White House in 1913, he told incoming President, Woodrow Wilson, "I'm glad to be going. This is the loneliest place in the world."
The years following his term as President were Taft's most fulfilling and productive. He became a professor at Yale Law School in 1913, headed the League to Enforce Peace in 1915, and served as co-chairman of the National War Labor Board in 1917. He found his greatest fulfillment was when President Harding appointed him Chief Justice in 1921.
As Chief Justice he reduced the Supreme Court's backlog and got the Court to look at property rights and governmental limitation more conservatively. He was instrumental in getting The Judiciary Act of 1925 passed, giving the justices more control when selecting cases to be heard.
William Taft administrated the Supreme Court efficiently, and through his lobbying efforts, Congress passed laws to strengthen the Court's power. Another far reaching program Chief Justice Taft voted for was the minimum wage. Taft was the only former President to ever give the Oath of Office to an incoming President. He performed this honor for both Coolidge and Hoover.
On March 8, l930, only one month after retiring from the Supreme Court, William Taft died. He was the first President to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.